In the first quarter of 2017, the Czech consulate in Lvov, Ukraine received almost 4,000 applications from Ukrainians looking to work in the Czech Republic, a number three times higher than the entire number of applications one year earlier. Domestic firms have made no secret of their interest in hiring Ukrainian labour, an initiative backed by the government and also the president. But organization has been a different matter: processing applications has been altogether too slow.
Czech companies wanting to hire Ukrainian labour have had to wait as much as eight months, a situation far from ideal, when there are numerous positions to fill. Of the 3,800 or so applications received so far this year alone, only around a third have been processed so far. The reality? One long wait.
One transport company told public broadcaster Czech TV it had jobs for up to 50 drivers, but the number of people who had been hired due to the long processing period were a mere three. Ukrainian applicants who had made up their minds to leave their native country in search of jobs abroad a company representative explained, didn’t have that much time to wait: in his view, at least some of those potential employees were being snapped up by companies in Poland instead, where, he said the application process was quicker.
Many Czech firms have more posts than they have been able to fill, so turning to foreign labour for those with necessary qualifications or willingness to receive re-training, was hardly surprising. The Czech economy needs foreign workers and the move to boost the Ukrainian work force was an idea long backed by the cabinet of Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and President Miloš Zeman. To help speed up the lagging procedure, the government agreed for the staff at the Lvov consulate to be boosted. The consulate has been speeding up the procedure gradually, with a quota of 360 applications by mid-Marchof this year to 660 now in April. Irena Valentová, spokeswoman for the Czech Foreign Ministry, says that necessary steps have now been taken to increase results even more.
Company representatives say they hope that the situation will improve: even so, it is expected that individual applications will still take on average around three months, or around 109 days, to complete, according to the Czech Chamber of Commerce. That is still an improvement over the 150 days on average that it took before. Jan Rafaj, the vice-president of the Czech Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic, explains:
“Companies are looking for alternative solutions in all kinds of ways: cooperation from abroad and workers from foreign countries.”
With a little luck and presumably that projected new quotas are met, Czech TV reports that some 9,600 or so Ukrainian nationals could be hired by Czech firms on the basis of the existing programme this year.